Film Music Review
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Cinema Concertante


Cinema Concertante


Music composed by Howard Shore, Elmer Bernstein, Gabriel Yared, Ennio Morricone, Nino Rota, Yann Tiersen, Enya, Niki Reiser, Nigel Hess, Ron Goodwin, Luis Bacalov, Henry Mancini, and Matthias Keller,

15 Tracks (Playing Time = 70:29)

Album produced and arrangements by Matthias Keller. Featuring pan flutist Ulrich Herkenhoff and the Kurpfalzisches Chamber Orchestra conducted by Frank Zacher. Recorded at St, John the Evangelist Church, Mannheim, Lindenhof September 29-)ctober 1, 2010.

Oehms Classics 785

Rating: ****


Concerts featuring music from THE LORD OF THE RINGS and STAR WARS worldwide have continued to raise awareness by orchestras that adding a film night to their concert season might just be the sort of financial boost they need. It also allows audiences the chance to experience the music in new contexts and with a live orchestra that might otherwise never do so. The Mannheim court may never have thought that 200 years later its orchestra would still be around let alone performing non-classical music in public. But that is exactly the case in this unique new release from Oehms Classics.

The Kurpfalzisches Chamber Orchestra decided to program a suite of music by Morricone on one of its concerts and the resulting overwhelming response convinced the ensemble and its board that they were on to something. The turned to Matthias Keller to provide further arrangements of other music that the chamber group could perform. For this recording conductor Frank Zacher leads the ensemble in film music from the latter part of the 20 th- and beginning of the 21 st centuries and in some cases is joined by international pan flute artist Ulrich Herkenhoff. The disc balances the pieces with Herkenhoff with purely orchestral selections for a rather enjoyable release.

Lest the addition of a pan flute be cause for pause, know that it tends to work fairly well in places adding a somewhat folk-like feel to the music. It works quite well in the selection from Shore’s THE LORD OF THE RINGS score (“In Dreams”) and is perfect for Enya’s “May It Be So” heard later on the disc. It works a bit less so in the love theme from Bernstein’s THE AGE OF INNOCENCE mostly because the piece feels a bit rushed. The primary work on the disc is an 18-minute suite derived from some of Morricone’s most popular works (ONCE UPON A TIME IN AMERICA, THE MISSION, LA PIOVRA, SACCO AND VANZETTI, and THE PROFESSIONAL). The somewhat Baroque feel of the music is well-captured in this arrangement that comes complete with harpsichord accompaniment. The addition of the pan flute for the melodic segments does add a rather fascinating dimension to the six selections incorporated into the suite itself and it allows for some rather interesting results. The while thing works surprisingly well—especially in the “Gabriel’s Oboe” from THE MISSION and in the selections from ONCE UPON A TIME IN AMERICA. Later a single track from THE LADY CALIFF becomes a wonderful duet for oboes and pan flute.

The “Convent of Sant’Anna” from THE ENGLISH PATIENT shows off the orchestra’s ability to capture the period inflections of this cue from Yared’s score quite well. Later, the two familiar themes from Rota’s THE GODFATHER (the waltz and love theme) receive moving and sensitive performances. The inclusion of the delightful waltz from AMELIE is one of many highlights on the disc. What makes a compilation film music disc work best is when it includes the familiar and popular with equally fine, lesser known films and composers. Zacher has chosen a couple of these for the latter part of the release with selections from Niki Reiser’s beautiful theme from BEYOND SILENCE and Nigel Hess’ LADIES IN LAVENDER (with Herkenhoff returning to solo on the latter in a gorgeous performance). Goodwin’s delightful theme from the MISS MARPLE films is a wonderfully performed piece that captures the humor and wit of the music and the performance of Mancini’s popular theme from THE PINK PANTHER (minus percussion) lets the ensemble try its hand at swing which was no doubt the cause of much laughter to get a classical chamber orchestra to swing. The string writing is fine and things are kept perhaps just above being a silly misstep.

Finally, as a sort of encore, arranger Matthias Keller has written a little set of “variations” called Elise Goes to Hollywood. Beethoven’s classic Fur Elise gets taken to see JURASSIC PARK, PSYCHO, THE GODFATHER, and ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST being invariably, and sometimes humorously, transformed as Keller treats the idea in the styles of each of the composer’s represented. It makes for a fine cap to a rather enjoyable program.

What sets the disc apart is the musicianship of the ensemble that takes each of these works and performs them with sensitivity and the sort of clarity one expects from top-notch chamber ensembles. At the very least, Keller’s arrangements capture the essence of the musical cues selected and provide for a beautiful release. Oehms’ sound is quite clear and well-balanced making one not only want to hope for future film-related releases, but also to seek out other fine recordings by this superb, historic ensemble from Mannheim.

-- Steven A. Kennedy, 8 March 2011

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